By David Rolland
By David Von Bader
By Rebecca Bulnes
By Laurie Charles
By Chuck Strouse
By Lee Zimmerman
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Born Steven Ellison and known as FlyLo to his fans, Flying Lotus isn't like most acts you'll encounter at Ultra Music Festival. The Los Angeles native doesn't make dance music — at least not in the traditional sense.
The acclaimed knob fiddler (Pitchfork selected his Cosmogramma as the 14th best album of 2010, and renowned BBC Radio DJ Gilles Peterson put it at number one) is the clear leader of a wave of instrumental hip-hop purveyors whose glitchy, ethereal beats have given rise to a nameless new genre centered around L.A.'s Low End Theory showcase and Ellison's Brainfeeder label.
Re-creating avant-hop instrumentals onstage for inebriated revelers fiending for four-on-the-floor bliss might strike some observers as a treacherous endeavor, but Ellison is surely up to the task. A distant relative of John Coltrane's (his great-aunt is Alice Coltrane, the late sax icon's wife), he brings charisma and a playful sense of improvisation to his live performances, having won over audiences on big stages such as Coachella and as an opening act for Thom Yorke, who collaborated with FlyLo on Cosmogramma's "... And the World Laughs With You."
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For someone who didn't technically release his first record until 2006, Ellison, whose resumé also includes crafting instrumental interludes heard during commercial breaks on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim, has an extensive catalogue — three LPs (with one more due out this year) and nearly a dozen EPs. And recently he's begun to venture into outside production, crafting beats for rappers Blu and Killer Mike as well as Odd Future's Mike G. and Hodgy Beats. Even Erykah Badu has tapped him to produce tracks for her next album.
But while that's all well and good, Ellison's complex, alien beats speak loudest when untainted by the human voice.